What is Anaemia?

Anaemia is the condition in which the count of red blood cells or Hemoglobin level in the blood falls or is reduced. The ideal count of Red blood cells and hemoglobin levels in men and women is different. In men if the level of Hemoglobin is less than 13.5 gram per100ml of blood then it is Anaemia. In women if the level of Hemoglobin is below 12.0 gram per 100 ml, then the condition is called Anaemia and the person is called an ‘Anaemic’. The fall in count may be due to less production of cells or destruction of cells.

What causes Anaemia?

Excessive blood loss: Blood loss may be due to heavy menstruation, blood discharge in the digestive or urinary tract, operation, accident or cancer.

Decrease in Red Blood Cell production: Maybe due to ‘Inherited’ or ‘Acquired’ reasons. Inherited means passed on from parents to children and acquired means to develop by reasons like poor diet or some other underlying condition. Conditions like poor diet which does not include Iron which is essential for production of RBC and Hemoglobin.RBC is produced in the bone marrow for which a protein called erythropoietin is required, low level of which can lead to Anaemia.

Certain conditions like HIV/AIDS, Cancer and kidney ailments make it difficult to produce RBCs due to infection and certain medications.

Anaemia can occur during Pregnancy due to decrease levels of Iron and Folic Acid.

Certain infants are born with Aplastic Anaemia due to inability to produce enough RBCs due to   certain medications, toxins and underlying disease.

Increase in destruction of Red Blood cell: Destruction of RBCs may happen due to inherited or acquired conditions. One cause of RBC destruction is due to enlarged or diseased Spleen, which is an organ which removes worn-out RBCs from the body but when diseased it may remove even the normal ones thus leading to Anaemia.

Other causes include Thalassemia, lack of Enzymes, immune disorders, blood transfusion, and medications.       

Who are at risk for Anaemia?

Anaemia is a general condition which can happen to anybody irrespective of race, religion and age and sex. But women are more prone and likely to develop Anaemia, particularly in child bearing age, due to heavy menstruation during pregnancy and childbirth. Infants can develop Anaemia if they have Iron deficiency if only breast fed or have formula milk not fortified with Iron, by the age of 6 months.

Major risk factors include: Iron, vitamin and minerals deficiency, injury or surgery, long term serious illnesses and infections and family history.

What signs and symptoms are associated with Anaemia?

The most common sign of Anaemia is tiredness (Fatigue). Other signs and symptoms of Anaemia are:  Pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, cold hands and feet and chest pain. Mild Anaemia will show less or no symptom at all.

How is Anaemia diagnosed?

Firstly the Doctor may check if there are common signs of Anaemia or may stumble upon Anaemia if checking for any other condition like family history and lack of proper diet.

Physical examination may include: Rapid or Irregular heartbeat, Irregular breathing pattern and a check for enlarged Spleen.

Various Blood tests: Tests may be referred for Complete Blood Count [CBC] which looks for RBCs, Platelets, Hemoglobin levels etc. Low count and level may reveal Anaemia.

Other diagnostic tests: Tests may also reveal the type of Anaemia and whether it is a result of any other underlying condition like certain deficiencies, other ailments, capacity of bone marrow to produce RBCs.

What are the different types of Anaemia?

There are different types of Anaemia depending upon its cause and traits:

  1. Iron deficiency Anaemia.
  2. Aplastic Anaemia
  3. Blood loss Anaemia
  4. Sickle Cell Anaemia
  5. Pernicious Anaemia
  6. Folic Acid Anaemia
  7. Hemolytic Anaemia
  8. Fanconi Anaemia
  9. Diamond blackfan Anaemia
  10. Thallassemia [Major or Minor].


What are the dietary remedies for Anaemia?

Remedies for Anaemia depend on the type of Anaemia and its severity and also on any underlying condition. Dietary remedies may involve:

Dietary Changes: If the Anaemia is due to Iron deficiency then a diet rich with Iron like Spinach, dark green leafy Vegetables, peas, prunes, lentils, beans, Iron fortified bread and cereals, soybeans and tofu etc. are advisable. Folic Acid supplements are recommended along with Vitamin C.

B12: Deficiency which causes Anaemia can be overcome by using B12 supplements and foods like liver, meat milk, dairy products, soy drinks, beef, fish and poultry. 

Can Anaemia be prevented?

Yes Anaemia can be prevented if is related to deficiencies like Iron, vitamins and minerals by having a healthy and balanced diet. If there are any signs and symptoms of Anaemia then immediately consult your doctor who may prescribe medications or change the current medications which may be causing Anaemia.

Certain Anaemia which is inherited cannot be prevented,   but the Doctor can give you medications to control the symptoms and if the condition is due to an accompanying chronic ailment then that ailment has to be addressed first to check Anaemia.  

Is Anaemia fatal?

Anaemia is not a disease but a condition which can be corrected depending upon its occurrence, like Iron and other deficiency and blood loss Anaemia can be corrected by the right treatment and diet, but unfortunately certain Anaemia like Sickle cell and Aplastic Anaemia and Pernicious Anaemia can prove to be fatal. Early diagnosis is very important.

Alexander Graham Bell the famous and legendary inventor who gave the ‘Telephone’ to the world died of severe case of Pernicious Anaemia. This is caused by B12 deficiency and less absorption of vitamin B12 in the body.

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